Successful change in management structure depend on treating people individually

Are you planning a change in the management structure of your organisation?  Have you considered how you might approach each person affected individually to talk to them about their changing role?

I learned an important lesson about announcing management structure changes when I was working in one of my early middle management roles. Within the organisation we had been briefed that a change in management structure was underway and we were told about what the future structure would look like. I was approached one day and asked for a conversation on a one-on-one basis with one of my peers.  During this conversation he explained what the future the organisation was going to look like in detail and he explained to me that from now on I would be reporting to him. 

I reacted very negatively to this. Firstly I had regarded my colleague as a peer and therefore I saw this as a demotion for me rather than a promotion for him. Secondly the fact that my boss-to-be was telling me about these changes gave me little opportunity to work through the emotions that I was experiencing. Thirdly,the emotional rollercoaster for me meant that I didn’t take the opportunity to congratulate my colleague on what was a promotion for him. 

Fortunately, all went well in the end.  I accepted the new role and we went on to have a very productive relationship.  On the other hand, I was determined to learn some lessons as a consequence of what was quite an emotional change for me.  The wider organisation lessons are learned are:

  1. When announcing management changes the default should be that the one-on-one conversations happen with a person’s current manager. This will ensure that the best explanation is given and will avoid any potential confrontations.  It is also likely that the person’s current manager understands them most effectively and will therefore explain things in the most appropriate way. 
  2. When working with managers, it is important where possible to give them an opportunity to have some control over what’s happening. It might not be possible but if they have any options these can explained.  Alternatively, if they can be involved in making some of the decisions then this will allow the management of change to occur more effectively for them as an individual. One way of handling all this is to advertise any new roles. This might not be appropriate in all cases but when it does happen it gives people the opportunity to make a decision for themselves and for a fair and open process to be used. 

If you’re interested in learning more about leading change in your organisation, I suggest you read Changing Spots – a system approach to change management. You will find more details at